cover image Gonna Sing My Head Off!

Gonna Sing My Head Off!

Kathleen Krull. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $20 (145pp) ISBN 978-0-394-81991-4

This superbly edited songbook is akin to an invigorating musical tour of American history and American regions. Its flavorsome contents include sea chanteysstet like the 100-year-old ballad ``The Sloop John B. ,'' the traditional square-dance tune ``Old Joe Clark,'' and Lee Haysstet and Pete Seeger's ``If I Had a Hammer.'' Concise introductions explain each song's origins and influence, and sometimes offer lore--the train song ``City of New Orleans'' was written by a railroad rider campaigning for Edmund Muskie, and commemorates a route followed by none other than Casey Jones. Krull provides uncomplicated arrangements for both piano and guitar, and she notes that she has chosen the keys ``easiest for the average person to sing and play in.'' Garns's illustrations, which seem to have been executed in crayon, have a dreamy quality not suggested by the zingy songs. His figures tend to be isolated and/or frozen into their poses (the art for ``Oh, Susanna!'' for example, eschews the mirthful banjo-strumming of the first verse in order to portray the slumbering man's vision of Susanna in verse No. 2), or figures are absent altogether; these static compositions lose the music. All ages. (Oct.)